Nathan Hobson (second from right) with his parents and part-owners of Okotoks and jockey Jye McNeil
A day that started at 3am and ended 24 hours later – its hard to believe you might have trouble getting to sleep – that’s unless your Nathan Hobson last Friday night.
The Swan Hill horseman is the first to arrive at his stables well before dawn, admits to a nap in the afternoon, before loading two horses onto his truck bound for the big smoke. $1 on the double of those two horses would have netted you a $250 return last week after Okotoks and Reward with Return put Hobson’s name and red and white silks up in lights.
A round trip from the Murray River town to Moonee Ponds checks in at 7 hours, but the 45-year-old didn’t tempt it alone with his mother and father in toe.
“Mum never misses a race meeting and Dad had never been to The Valley before so he was walking around thinking how easy is this,” an easy-going Hobson explained.
Success under lights isn’t all unfamiliar after Reward with Return broke the stables metropolitan duck in November last year. The first of Hobson’s 165 winners came in 2011 not long after he first took out his license after gaining experience under the tutelage of David Hayes, Darren Weir, Brian Mayfield-Smith and Dale Sutton.
But Hobson was later alerted that his feat on Friday night may have been history making.
“I went to a luncheon on Sunday and a bloke said to me he can’t recall a Swan Hill trainer in his lifetime ever training a city double,” Hobson relayed.
Growing up, he was a lover of footy and cricket in rural Victoria with his sister owning a pony on the family farm in Murrabit his closest link to racehorses. He still says watching a horse gallop in full flight is ‘magical’ – the passion of the thoroughbred always coming first.
In the small township of Swan Hill, where horse trainers can be counted on two hands, Hobson’s growth has been significant. Less than ten years ago he was ‘on the tools’ as a carpenter by day and helping local trainers of a morning. With 26 horses at his busiest, Swan Hill’s June racing carnival is like Christmas… as for Friday night…
“Unbelievable” – was the word Hobson used even after having days to allow things to sink in.
It was fitting Hobson’s parents were trackside on Friday night, admitting Mum got the job of driving the truck home, while Hobson took the chance to enjoy some R&R and respond to the many well wishes. The evening’s first winner, Okotoks, is raced by the Hobson family and originally hailed from the Mick Price stable with a $110,000 price tag.
“The family gave the cows away not that long ago and said go find us a horse, so when he came up for sale on the internet, we brought him.”
Fittingly, jockey Jye McNeil rode the galloper whose family also resides in the area. One and a half hours later, and it was a pairing with a less familiar jockey that piloted Reward with Return to his second Valley triumph.
“Liam (Riordan) hasn’t ridden much for me but I remember the day he rode his first ever winner, this confident little kid come up to me and said ‘when are you putting me on your horses’, so I guess I finally did all these years later,” Hobson explained.
A $20,000 yearling purchase and closely related to the stable’s stalwart Don’t Get Excited, Friday’s win took stakes earnings past $220,000.
“I backed him up in a week after he ran in the 955 metres and Jess Eaton said she couldn’t pull him up after the line so I thought I’d roll the dice,” Hobson professed.
And if The Valley wasn’t his favourite track beforehand it certainly is now.
“I just love it, it’s the best city track, everything is so close and the atmosphere just makes it.”
In a life of a horse trainer, Hobson was a long way from the bright lights of The Valley on Saturday, where he saddled up five runners at Moulamein’s annual race meeting, a small NSW township with a population of 300 people north of Swan Hill, where he trained a double.
A double anywhere is still a double.
* Nathan Hobson and Liam Riordan are first emergencies in Race 3 on Friday night the Xtreme Freight Plate with Night Whisper.